Category Archives: Medals

Italy Star

Continuing our slow and steady survey of British WW2 campaign medals, tonight we come to the Italy Star:imageIf you have read the posts on the 1939-45 Star and the France and Germany Star you will be familiar with the design of this medal, here it is just the ribbon and wording on the star that have changes, with this medal saying (logically enough) ‘THE ITALY STAR’:imageThe ribbon is striped red-white-green-white-red, the colours of the Italian flag:ribbon_-_italy_starThe Italy Star was instituted by the United Kingdom in May 1945 for award to those who had served in operations in Sicily or Italy during the Italian Campaign, from the capture of Pantellaria on 11 June 1943 to the end of active hostilities in Europe on 8 May 1945, both dates inclusive.

The criteria for award were:

Service afloat

The qualifying sea areas for the award of the Italy Star were the Mediterranean Command, the Aegean, and Albanian and Cretan Waters between 11 June 1943 and 8 May 1945 inclusive. For service afloat, the qualification requirement was entry into operational service in an operational area in the Mediterranean or in naval operations during the invasion of the South of France, on condition that the six months service requirement for the award of the 1939-1945 Star had been completed.

Casual entry into the qualifying sea areas which was not directly connected with actual operations, service in Merchant Navy vessels landing troops or supplies at ports in North Africa, Palestine, Syria and in Cyprus, or service in vessels at ports in Spain, the Balearic Islands and Turkey east of 30° East, were not regarded as qualifying service for the Italy Star.

The award of a gallantry medal or Mention in Dispatches qualified the recipient for the award of the Italy Star, regardless of service duration. Personnel whose qualifying service period was terminated prematurely by their death or disability due to service were awarded the Star.

Certain special conditions applied governing the award of the Italy Star to those Naval personnel who entered operational service less than six months before the end of the qualifying period. Those who entered operational service in the qualifying area on or after 10 November 1944, were awarded the Italy Star by entry into operational service. In such cases, however, the 1939-1945 Star could not be awarded for service of less than 180 days.

Service ashore

Service on land had no prior time qualification. Qualifying service on land by Army personnel, Naval shore-based personnel and Air Force non-air crew was entry into operational service as part of the establishment in the following areas, all dates inclusive:

  • Aegean from 11 June 1943 to 8 May 1945.
  • Corsica from 11 June to 4 October 1943.
  • Dodecanese from 11 June 1943 to 8 May 1945.
  • Greece from 11 June 1943 to 8 May 1945.
  • Italy, including Elba, from 11 June 1943 to 8 May 1945.
  • Pantellaria on 11 June 1943.
  • Sardinia from 11 June to 19 September 1943.
  • Sicily from 11 June to 17 August 1943.
  • Yugoslavia from 11 June 1943 to 8 May 1945.

Air crew who flew on operations against the enemy in the Mediterranean theatre, or over Europe from bases in the Mediterranean area, had no prior time qualification and qualified by an operational sortie. The Italy Star could not, however, be awarded to air crew based elsewhere than in the Mediterranean area. The qualification for flying personnel posted or employed on air transport or ferrying duties was at least three landings in any of the qualifying areas on or during the stipulated dates or periods.

Army personnel who entered Austrian territory during the closing stages of hostilities in Europe were eligible for the Italy Star, but not for the France and Germany Star. Similarly, flights to Europe from bases in the Mediterranean area during the period from 11 July 1943 to 8 May 1945 were qualification for the Italy Star, but not for the France and Germany Star.

India Service Medal 1939-1945

Last year we looked at the British Defence Medal here, a similar medal was issued in India for those personnel serving three years in a non-combat position. The medal is made of cupro-nickel, 36mm in diameter:imageThe medal was instituted on 6 June 1946 and awarded for service between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945. The obverse has the legend “GEORGIVS VI D:G:BR:OMN:REX ET INDIAE IMP.” (George VI by the grace of God King of Great Britain and Emperor of India) and the crowned effigy of King George VI:imageOn the reverse it shows a relief map of India and the words “INDIA” and “1939-45”:imageThe ribbon represented the colours of the Order of the Star of India and the Order of the Indian Empire with stripes in light and dark blue:ribbon_india_service_medalCo-incidentally the same colours were used for the roundels of RAF and Empire aircraft in the Pacific theatre.

The medal was awarded to British and Indian officers, warrant officers and other ranks of the Indian Forces and Indian Civil Defence Service. Those eligible for the medal included enrolled non-combatants and civilians in Military employ and Emergency Commissioned Officers and British other ranks of either the British or Indian Army, providing that they resided in India prior to 3 September 1939. It was not to be awarded to those who qualified for the Defence Medal.

1939-1945 Star

Tonight, after a gap of quite a few months, we look at another campaign medal from the Second World War, in this case the 1939-45 star:imageThe design of the star exactly mirrors that of the France and Germany Star we looked at here, but the scroll reads ‘The 1939-1945 Star’:imageThe ribbon has equal bands of dark blue, light blue and red:Ribbon_-_1939-45_StarThese represent the Royal Navy, Royal Air force and Army, each band is the same width to represent the equal contribution of each force, as with all these medals, the ribbon was designed by George VI. The 1939–1945 Star was awarded for any period of operational service overseas between 3 September 1939 and either 8 May 1945 in Europe or 2 September 1945 in the Far East theatre. The broad criteria were 180 days of service between these dates, with more specific criteria depending on service arm.

Naval personnel qualified after 180 days afloat between certain specified dates in areas of operations as laid out in the regulations.

  • Army personnel had to complete 180 days of service in an operational command.
  • Airborne troops qualified if they had participated in any airborne operations and had completed 60 days of service in a fully operational unit.
  • Air Force air crew qualified after 60 days of service in an operational unit, including at least one operational sortie. The 1939-45 Star was also awarded to crews of transport aircraft that flew over certain specified routes. Air crew of fighter aircraft engaged in the Battle of Britain were also awarded the Battle of Britain Clasp, while air crew of bomber aircraft who participated in at least one operational sortie in a Bomber Command operational unit were awarded the Bomber Command Clasp in 2013.
  • Ground crew and other Air force personnel qualified upon completion of 180 days of service in an area of operational army command.
  • Merchant Navy personnel qualified upon completion of 180 days of service with at least one voyage made through an operational area.

Miniature Defence Medal

Miniature medals are half size versions of medals worn with mess dress and at evening functions, they are normally exact copies of the larger medal, this example is a miniature version of the Defence Medal we looked at here:imageThe obverse has the head of King George VI:imageThe difference in size is most apparent when placed next to the regular sized medal:imageThe medals are die stamped and of a good quality, but lack any naming seen on the full size versions. The current guidance on miniature medals (for the Royal Navy at least) is:

  1. Miniature Medals
  2. These are half the size of the insignia, which they represent and on ribands 29mm long, are worn in the same manner as full-sized medals.
  3. With some exceptions, as detailed in JSP 761, miniatures of all badges of orders and decorations are worn with miniature medals.
  4. Except as in sub para d, miniature medals are worn with number 2A/2B Mess Dress/Undress on the lapel of the mess jacket. They may extend over the lapel towards the shoulder but not beyond the lapel on the inner side. The position on RM officers’ mess jackets is: Colonels and above, 102mm below the neck point of the shoulder seam; other officers 19mm below the Globe and laurel badge. Until replaced by the new mess dress the officers’ capes should be level with the top of the rank badge.

The Army regulations offer further guidance on mounting miniature medals:

  1. Miniature Medals. Miniature medals may be worn court mounted or in an ordinary style. In both instances, medals are to be suspended from ribands of a width of 16mm. The length of the brooch should not normally exceed 14.7cm i.e. nine miniatures not overlapped but a larger number of miniatures may necessitate a longer brooch to avoid overlapping.   If the number of miniatures can not be sensibly fitted to a longer brooch, then miniatures may be overlapped. At no time should more than two-thirds of any ribbon be covered by another; the overlap of each ribbon should be equal.   When court mounted, the medal is suspended from a ribbon so as to allow the centre of a round Medal to be cut in half by the backing, ie the nose of the impression of a sovereign’s head on a Medal should rest on the bottom edge of the backing.   The bottom edges of miniatures should be aligned and not exceed 57mm from the top of the riband to the lowest point of the miniature. The lengths of each individual riband will consequently vary according to the height of each order badge, decoration and medal. The number of clasps, bars or emblems attached to the riband of any miniature may require that ribands across the whole brooch be of additional length. Sets of miniatures are illustrated at Annex A to Section 3.

The wearing of miniature medals is also commonplace in commonwealth countries, as demonstrated by these Canadian’s from the Calgarry Highlanders and Stormont, Dundass & Glengarry Highlanders who are both wearing miniature medals with their mess dress:untitledThere seems to be very little interest in miniature medals from collectors, and as such they are very cheap compared to full size medals, with nice groupings going for a fraction of the price of their full size counterparts.

World War One Victory Medal

In the past we have looked at a number of Second World War medals, tonight we turn to an example from the First World War and consider the Victory Medal. This medal was issued in huge numbers- an estimated 6,334,522 were distributed, this makes it a very common medal but as with everything else WW1 related the prices have risen sharply in the last few years with the centenary of the outbreak of the conflict. The medal itself is a conventional circular copper disc lacquered in bronze, hanging from a ring which attaches it to the ribbon:imageThe obverse of the medal has a winged figure of Victory with her left arm extended and a palm in her right:imageThe reverse has the legend “THE GREAT / WAR FOR / CIVILISATION / 1914-1919”:imageThe ribbon the medal hangs from consists of two rainbows going from violet at the edge to red where they meet in the centre:untitledUnlike medals issued in WW2 those distributed after the end of the Great War have the recipients name, regiment and service number engraved around the edge:imageThis example was issued to Gunner T Taylor, Royal Artillery. Sadly the other medals in this soldier’s grouping have gone astray over the years; the Victory Medal was never issued alone and most frequently was issued with the War medal and/or the 1914-15 Star. To qualify for the Victory medal one had to be mobilised by Britain, in any service and have entered a theatre of war between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. Women qualified for this and the earlier two medals, for service in nursing homes and other auxiliary forces. It was also awarded to members of the British Naval mission to Russia 1919 – 1920 and for mine clearance in the North Sea between 11 November 1918 and 30 November 1919.

The Victory Medal is perhaps unique in sharing common characteristics with the Victory Medals of the other allied forces in WW1. Belgium, Brazil, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Romania, Siam, Union of South Africa and the USA all adopted medals with the same ribbon and in most cases a version of winged Victory on the obverse, albeit of different designs.

War Medal

One of the most common medals of the Second World War is the ‘War Medal’. Like many collectors this was one of the first I ever picked up and I have had this one since I was a child. The medal has a crown portrait of George VI on the obverse:imageThe reverse of the medal has a lion standing over a two headed dragon, one head is an eagle the other a dragon to symbolise Germany and Japan:imageThe reverse also has the years of the war’s duration, 1939 and 1945, displayed upon it. The medal itself is made of cupro-nickel and is 1.42 inches across, with a non swivelling suspender above:imageThe ribbon is in red white and blue, the colours of the Union flag:untitledThe qualification requirement for the award of the War Medal 1939–1945 to full-time military personnel was 28 days of service, wherever rendered. Qualifying service in the Merchant Navy was 28 days of service anywhere at sea during the qualifying period. Foreign subjects commissioned or enlisted into British Forces who did not receive a similar award to the War Medal 1939–1945 from their own Governments were also eligible to qualify for the award of this medal.

Full-time paid members of the specially approved colonial and other military forces, militarised police or militarised civilian bodies that were eligible to qualify for campaign stars were also eligible to qualify by 28 days of service during the qualifying period as laid down for the force concerned, as follows:

  • Aden Armed Police from 3 February 1939 to 2 September 1945.
  • British Honduras Defence Force from 3 September 1939 to 3 December 1939.
  • British Guiana Constabulary, excluding those who ceased to belong to the Force for reasons other than death, ill-health or age, from 3 September 1939 to 14 July 1945.
  • British Guiana Military Band from 29 April 1942 to 8 May 1945.
  • Cyprus Police Force employed on full-time military service from 10 June 1940 to 12 June 1941.
  • Cyprus Volunteer Force from 2 June 1941 to 2 September 1945.
  • Gambia Police Force from 5 July 1940 to 17 August 1940.
  • Gambian Army Inland Water Transport on the SS Munshi from 21 July 1942 to 31 May 1944.
  • Gibraltar Defence Force from 3 September 1939 to 2 March 1940.
  • Nigeria Police Force from 23 July 1940 to 8 May 1945.
  • Palestine Police Force from 27 May 1942 to 8 May 1945.
  • Sudan Defence Force for full-time permanent service anywhere in the Sudan from 3 September 1939 to 8 May 1945.
  • Trinidad Police Force from 3 September 1939 to 2 September 1945.
  • Zanzibar Police Force from 3 September 1939 to 2 September 1945.

The qualification for the specially approved categories of uniformed civilians who were eligible to qualify for Campaign Stars was 28 days of service in the area of an army operational command overseas, or overseas from or outside the country of residence in non-operational areas subjected to enemy air attack or closely threatened. Service in the United Kingdom or in the territory of residence, other than in an army operational area, was not a qualification.

The medal was awarded to personnel whose required service period was terminated prematurely by their death, disability due to service or capture as a prisoner-of-war and whose service qualified them for one of the Second World War Campaign Stars. Personnel who had received one of the Stars for a service period of less than 28 days were also awarded the War Medal 1939–1945.

Defence Medal

Having largely ignored medals up until now, I have increased my collection of British medals by 60% in the last couple of weeks. After the France and Germany Star we looked at last week, tonight we have the Defence Medal. Again this was a cheap find on Huddersfield second hand market as the ribbon and the suspension bar were missing. A pound on a new ribbon and a bit of scrap wire and the medal was soon back in shape…imageThe medal itself is made of Cupro Nickel, with a bar suspended above. The obverse shows King George VI:imageThe reverse has the medals description ‘THE DEFENCE MEDAL’ at the bottom, with the dates 1939 and 1945 and the crown above an oak sapling, flanked by a lion and lioness all above the waves:imageThe ribbon of the medal is green for the green and pleasant land of Great Britain with a broad orange stripe for the flames of the blitz and two narrow black stripes for the blackout:untitledThis is a very common medal, issued to many different military and civilian personnel and there were many criteria for award:

Military personnel

In the United Kingdom this included military personnel working in headquarters, on training bases and airfields for the duration of the War in Europe from 3 September 1939 to 8 May 1945, and service by members of the Home Guard during its existence from 14 May 1940 to 31 December 1944. The medal was also awarded for non-operational service overseas in the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, India and the Colonies.

Those who qualified for the award of any one of the Campaign Stars could be awarded the Defence Medal in addition, and the subsequent award of one of the Campaign Stars did not supersede a previous award of the Defence Medal.[1]

Civilian services

Eligible civilian service in the United Kingdom included, but was not confined to, civilian services whose members were eligible for Chevrons for war service.

  • Civil Defence services established by a Government Department or Local Authority.
    • Wardens Service, including Shelter Wardens.
    • Rescue Service, including former First-Aid Party Service.
    • Decontamination Service.
    • Report and Control Service.
    • Messenger Service.
    • Ambulance Service. including Sitting Case Cars.
    • First-Aid Service, including First-Aid Posts and Points, Public Cleansing Centres, Mobile Cleansing Units and the Nursing Service for public air-raid shelters.
  • Local Authority Civil Defence Services.
    • Rest Centre Service.
    • Emergency Food Service, including the Queen’s Messenger Convoy Service.
    • Canteen Service.
    • Emergency Information Service.
    • Mortuary Service.
  • National Fire Service, including service in a local authority Fire Brigade or the Auxiliary Fire Service prior to nationalisation.
  • The Police, Royal Marine Police Special Reserve, Admiralty Civil Police, War Department Constabulary, Air Ministry Constabulary, Railway Police and Dock Police.
  • American Ambulance, Great Britain.
  • Civil Air Transport.
  • Civil Defence Reserve, Kent County Civil Defence Mobile Reserve and West Sussex County Civil Defence Mobile Reserve.
  • Civil Nursing Reserve.
  • Civilian Technical Corps.
  • Coast Guard.
  • Fire Guards who performed duties under the local authorities, or at Government or business premises.
  • Lighthouse keepers who served under the three Lighthouse Authorities and keepers of Light-Vessels under those authorities, who did not qualify for the 1939-1945 Star.
  • Nurses in hospitals for which Government Departments or local authorities were responsible, or in the recognised Voluntary hospitals.
  • Port of London Authority River Emergency Service.
  • Clyde River Patrol.
  • Royal Observer Corps.
  • Women’s Voluntary Services for Civil Defence, whose members could qualify provided:
    • They were enrolled in an eligible local authority Civil Defence Service.
    • They performed duties analogous to those of one of the eligible local authority Civil Defence Services and the section of the Women’s Voluntary Services to which they belonged was one which functioned operationally during or immediately after enemy attacks.

Qualifying service

The length of qualifying service required for the award of the Defence Medal varied, depending on where and in what role an individual served.

  • For persons normally resident in the United Kingdom, the requirement was 1,080 days (three years) of service in the United Kingdom or 90 days (three months) of service in a Mine and Bomb Disposal Unit. The qualifying period in the United Kingdom ended upon the end of the War in Europe on 8 May 1945.
  • In a non-operational area which was not subjected to air attack and which was not closely threatened, the requirement was 360 days (one year) of service overseas from or outside the individual’s country of residence. Military service overseas from the United Kingdom could qualify up to 2 September 1945 when the war in the Pacific ended. Service was reckonable from the date of embarkation and was counted at its full rate for the voyage to the non-operational area.
  • In a non-operational area subjected to air attack or closely threatened, the requirement was 180 days (six months) of service overseas from or outside a person’s country of residence. The same applied to British Commonwealth citizens from overseas who served in the Home Guard in the United Kingdom. Service was reckonable from the date of embarkation and, for the voyage to the area of service, was counted at half the actual duration of the voyage